Wednesday, April 09, 2008

UNISON NEC agrees policy for Conference

I’ll be circulating a full personal report to London UNISON branches from today’s meeting of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) (and yesterday’s meeting of the Development and Organisation Committee) – in addition to the official report.

The main item of business for this meeting was UNISON National Delegate Conference. The NEC therefore agreed its policy on most of the motions (and rule amendments) which made it past the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) and on to the agenda.

(Incidentally – since there are some sensitive souls in our trade union – I ought to point out that, by expressing considered disagreement with decisions of the SOC I am not attacking the SOC or its members, just as if I express dissent from decisions of the majority of my NEC colleagues this does not amount to an attack upon them).

If any London UNISON branch (or member) wants details on the NEC policies on any particular Conference motion please get in touch – I will just touch on one or two items here.

The NEC has agreed to submit an amendment to Motion 11 on the Two Tier Workforce from Somerset County (which I think we should be aiming to debate at Conference) – I objected to various parts of the NEC amendment which appeared to me to water down the motion but the NEC agreed to press ahead. Should the motion be prioritised it will be up to Conference to decide whether to ask the NEC to do some work or to call upon the Government to do it instead…

I also objected (equally fruitlessly I fear) to the detail of an NEC amendment to Motion 16 on Campaigning on Pay from the Islington branch which seeks to delete reference to a national demonstration in favour of support for action called by the TUC and also deletes reference to inviting speakers from other unions (on the grounds – I was told – that we need to be meeting with our own members first of all). For those who want to know why we should counterpose organising meetings of our own members and inviting speakers from other trade unions you’ll have to ask someone else, as I received no coherent explanation for the policy position then adopted by the NEC.

I also took issue unsuccessfully with the decision of the Policy Committee to oppose Motion 37 from York City on Housing – which I fear that the NEC will indeed oppose at Conference because the motion opposes Local Housing Companies which, our Policy Committee felt “should not be ruled out at this early stage” – I was disappointed with this decision which I think reflects a lack of confidence in our position of support for public ownership and public sector housing provision. Perhaps some branches will think of amendments to strengthen the NEC motion on this topic – number 35 – in order to reaffirm UNISON’s policies.

In line with the precedent set last year, the NEC are proposing an amendment which radically redirects Motion 63 from the Bromley branch, the entertainingly (if somewhat misleadingly) titled “New Labour: What Do We Get for Our Money?” The amendment (put before us by the less entertainingly titled “Objective Three Scrutiny Group”) brings in reference to the Hayden Phillips Review of Party funding which is missing from the motion, but also suggests that all that might be wrong with the operation of our political funds are their “operations and functional processes” – whereas I think our problem is the political timidity which led to our nominating Gordon Brown for Labour Party Leader.

York City branch are also the movers of Motion 81 on Migrant workers which has attracted an NEC amendment which is largely sensible but which, to my regret, deletes reaffirmation of UNISON Conference policy in favour of an amnesty for illegal migrants. I would accept that it is better to use the preferred phrase “regularisation” rather than the word “amnesty” which we agreed at our Conference if someone could show me that this was getting us anywhere in terms of influencing the Government...

Debate on the NEC’s position on Motion 115 on the Branch Directory was somewhat curtailed by the announcement that a new Branch Directory will be with branches shortly. Some NEC members genuinely seem to believe that it is inappropriate for UNISON branches to communicate directly with each other (which is not the main reason for having the Branch Directory but is a good use of it). I can only think that this is because they confuse a lay led trade union with some other organisation which discouraged such internal communication!

The NEC also agreed its position on Rule Amendments all of which are much as you would expect. Those of us who contributed to discussion on the issue at the Development and Organisation Committee helped to avert NEC opposition to Rule Amendment 5 from the National Disabled Members Committee which would create a post of Branch Disabled Members Officer which should be held by a disabled member.

Overall the NEC positions are hardly unexpected on any of the motions or Rule Amendments and, for once, there was more controversy around the Annual Report (about which more shortly)…

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